Optimizing Your Site When It's Huge

How do you optimize your site for the search engines when you have hundreds of thousands of pages of content? That's a big job and can get increasingly difficult as the days pass and more pages are created. It doesn't have to be as difficult as it seems though.

At Pubcon in Las Vegas, Mike McDonald of WebProNews caught up with Bill Hunt, CEO of Global Strategies International, a search engine marketing consultancy firm that specializes in global enterprise companies. They talked about some things that companies can do to simplify their search engine marketing efforts when their sites are huge. Hunt spoke a little about this at the PubCon session called "Discover Techniques Used by Enterprise-Level SEOs/SEMs", but talked a little more about it with Mike.

So What Do the Big Boys Use?

Companies with millions of pages often leverage all the different properties of partners they have and use them to get links. One way Bill talked about doing this is getting partners to link to specific pages instead of your homepage. He gives an example of a company like IBM sponsoring events. These event pages would have IBM logos linking to IBM.com, but what IBM could do is talk to the people running the event page and ask them to link to a more topical page instead of their homepage. If it was for a supply chain management event, they could link to a supply chain management page.

Another example would be OEM partners. You can have them link to the appropriate channel of your site instead of the homepage. The more partners you have, the bigger impact this kind or reaching out will make on your search engine marketing efforts. Bill says to just go out and see who's linking to your homepage and simply ask them to change the link. And if they're your partner, they're more likely to comply.

Affiliate Issues

A large company is bound to have some affiliates, and you probably don't want to step on any toes in cases like these. Bill suggests looking at the combination of paid and organic data that's out there and turning off paid words if they've got a good organic ranking. Bill says to ask yourself "Is there cannibalization?"

When working with companies that have a lot of channel partners and brands themselves you have to understand what the cost is of having that affiliate partner, he notes.

A lot of big companies (like Intel) are starting to use "co-op dollars" or subsidize their channel partners work by saying: Here's a list of words you can use, here's some acceptable copy and if you use those, we'll pay "X" percentage like they do with the Intel Inside program. It subsidizes and you get almost twice the amount of budget.

"Sit down and do the math," says Bill. Does it make sense to compete or does it make sense to subsidize? Or do you not need to do anything at all? Subsidizing your partners is a big win for them and you let them do all the heavy lifting.

Organizing Big Sites for SEO

For Big sites with many pages, Mike asked Bill for some tips to keep them organized and pointed in the right direction. Bill offered the following advice.
Bill Hunt

The first thing is to take your words and tier them (such as three tiers). Bill returns to IBM as an example of having 53 million pages. You can't do SEO on all of those outside of using templates. Tier the words...take 100 words for example, and assign them each a page and monitor how those are doing. Use the page ranking...is it meeting the criteria or is it not? Focus on making sure those primary phrases are there.

Another big issue is whether or not you are actually getting indexed. Bill says to use XML sitemaps and run your own spider to "make sure you're not getting trapped out."

Using templates is big though. Bill says he has clients that have hundreds of thousands of pages, but they can fit neatly into five templates. "Optimize five templates, and anything that's built in that template is search-friendly out of the box." It's not quite perfect, he says, but it's about 80% there, and then you can fine-tune it. I would also add that a good amount of internal linking in large sites is probably a good idea as well.

A huge site with tons of content would appear to be a gargantuan task when it comes to SEO, and without organization, it can be just that. Considering the advice Bill Hunt has offered though, it doesn't have to be as intimidating of a process as it appears on the surface.

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